UK heatwave examined from space by British scientists

Scientists associated with the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), located at Space Park in Leicester, produced a map of the UK displaying land surface temperature.

 A woman fans herself in the summer heat (Illustrative) (photo credit: FLICKR)
A woman fans herself in the summer heat (Illustrative)
(photo credit: FLICKR)

Experts at the University of Leicester in England shared new insights on the UK's recent heat wave on Monday based on data captured from space.

Scientists associated with the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), located at Space Park in Leicester, produced a map of the UK displaying land surface temperature. Measurements were taken by a pair of Sentinel-3 satellites in orbit more than 500 miles above Earth, and maxed out at 52°C (125.6°F).

The satellites are operated by the European Space Agency.

“Space based observations of the temperature of the surface of the land offer unparalleled knowledge of the spatial structure of these heatwave events.”

Dr. Darren Ghent, NCEO Leader and Research Fellow for Land Surface Temperature

Land surface temperature

 A sign warns of extreme heat in Death Valley, California, US, July 11, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/BRIDGET BENNETT/FILE PHOTO) A sign warns of extreme heat in Death Valley, California, US, July 11, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/BRIDGET BENNETT/FILE PHOTO)

Land surface temperature and ambient air temperature - the temperature information you get on your phone - are two very different measurements but they are inextricably linked. The heat radiating off the ground impacts the air temperature, weather and climate patterns. 

Dr. Darren Ghent, NCEO Leader and Research Fellow for Land Surface Temperature, said: “Space based observations of the temperature of the surface of the land offer unparalleled knowledge of the spatial structure of these heatwave events.”

The highest temperatures, clustered around London and other major cities, are generated by high concentrations of concrete, buildings and dense materials that retain heat more effectively than the Earth's surface does naturally.